Salary cap space
As of March 17, 2021, the Saints are projected to be $32,405,344 over the 2021 cap.
The Saints rolled over $4.1 million in 2020 cap space.
March 10 update: The salary cap has been set at $182.5 million.
The New Orleans Saints finished the regular season at the top of the NFC South for the fourth consecutive year, ending with a 12-4 record. After eliminating the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card Round, Drew Brees and co. had their sights set on the Super Bowl. But another league veteran had other plans, and the Saints fell short to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Heading into the offseason, the front office finds itself in arguably the most difficult position of any team in the league. They will have to completely restructure and recompose the roster to get under the salary cap, which means some major decisions will have to be made.
The NFL powered though its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums, and limited fans in a handful of locations. The decrease in gate revenue is going to result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means the salary cap is expected to decrease. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary cap of no lower than $175 million. The latest report has the number landing between $180 and $181 million, which is a good bit lower than the $198.2 million of this past season. This will result in some tough choices for many teams.
All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.
One of the easiest paths to creating salary space will be through Drew Brees. After 20 seasons of playing at an elite level, the veteran is contemplating retirement. If that happens, the Saints could release him and save as much as $25 million in cap space. While that would only put a dent in the overall salary situation, it would be a significant improvement. Needless to say, New Orleans fans should be hoping that the future Hall-of-Famer steps aside.
Part of what made the Saints so competitive in the 2020-21 season was their defense. But of course, all good things must come to an end. Many of the necessary cuts will have to be suffered by defensive players such as linebacker Kwon Alexander ($13.4 million in savings), cornerback Janoris Jenkins ($7 million), and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown ($5 million). Those three moves combined with the retirement of Brees would eliminate half of that salary cap excess.
While New Orleans will likely try to hold onto and possibly restructure a contract for Michael Thomas, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders may be on the chopping block. Cutting Manny would create $4 million in cap space, something fans should be comfortable with since he will be 34-years-old in March. And while we’re on the topic, tight end Jared Cook will also be 34 by the start of next season. Releasing Cook would generate another $9.1 million in cap space. As you can see, the 2021 New Orleans Saints will look vastly different than in previous years.